This book concentrates on the origin of Jainism in north India and its evolution during 800 BC to CE 526 when, not yet crystallised into a set structure and codified into religious books, it retained a genuineness.
This reprinted volume is now offered in a fresh state-of-the-art typeset. The photographs are improved versions of the earlier ones with more lustre and colour.
Based on the original study of Jaina sources and involving criticism of various opinions, the study establishes Jainism as the most powerful religion of the north from the days of Parva (800 BC) to the Kusana and the Gupta periods and even the Vallabhi kings. It begins with Jainism’s antiquity with reference to Parêva’s historicity and scrutinises references to Jainism in Hindu and Buddhist literature. It discusses the life of Mahavira and the Jaina religious philosophy that developed under him and later it traces the influence of Jainism on royal dynasties and clans that held sway from 800 to 200 BC. It views the arrival and growth of Jainism in Kalinga region by studying numerous evidences in caves, temples and inscriptions. It specially reviews Jaina literature and art in north India. A detailed perspective is offered of crucial aspects like the date of Mahavira’s nirvana by consulting a host of Jaina religious literature and modern scholarly studies.
The volume will benefit scholars and students of Idology and of Indian religions in particular.
Mr C. J. Shah is one of the pioneer students of the Indian Historical Research Institute, and his work will undoubtedly be of great credit to his Alma Mater. Being himself a Jaina, he took up the early history of Jainism as the subject of his research, and the result of his studies is embodied in the present book.
Jainism is the most overlooked among all the great religions of India. The present work will disclose whatever is historical and legendary in the early history of this religion, the doctrines of its founder, the divisions among his disciples, the spreading of the new faith and the continuous struggle with its sister-faith, Buddhism, which it has survived in the country that witnessed the birth of both of them.
Two limits will be found in this history of Jainism by Mr Shah — one geographical, the other chronological. Jainism was soon spread all over south India, and it formed there a new community with different gurus, different practices and even a different ritual. In short, the history of Jainism in south India is totally different from the history of Jainism in north India, and forms by itself a different historical unit. That is the reason why Mr Shah has limited his work geographically to Aryavarta.
The other limit of Mr Shah’s work is chronological. His history stops at AD 526, when the list of canonical works of Jainism was finally drawn up in the Vallabhi Council. This event was a landmark in the history of Jainism. Prior to it Jainism was in a state of primitive simplicity that was totally lost after the codification of its religious books. After this date Jainism appears crystallized, and loses its genuineness and sincerity. Mr Shah has selected for -s work the early period, which is much more interesting and of much create cultural value.
As regards the method followed in this work, nothing will, it is expected, he objected against it even by the most scrupulous historians. Certainly there is never a human work totally flawless. This, and the fact that it is the first work of Mr Shah, will sufficiently commend the following pages to the benevolence of readers and critics. I Ought however to mention that he has not been satisfied by seeing what other authors have said or propoundedsince that is not research but mere compilation. He has studied the sources themselves, has criticized opinions, has discussed controversial points, has compared sources with sources and has thus finally elucidated one of the most obscure periods in the history of India, with the criticism and impartiality proper to a historian.
The work of Mr Shah is No. 6 in the series of “Studies in Indian History of the Indian Historical Research Institute.” It is to be expected that its appearance will communicate new encouragement to his successors, the present research workers of the Institute. Many an obscure point still exists in India’s past which demands the sincere work of rising historians of India for the benefit of posterity. The work of the historian is the investigation of truth. And truth will always reveal itself if we look for it with constancy, with sincerity and with an unprejudiced mind. Then truth itself will be the crown of our efforts.
Of all Indological studies Jainism has been particularly unfortunate in that the little that is done for it stands in vivid contrast with the vast undone. Even Buddhism, a veritable sister of Jainism in point of contemporaneous glory as well as rivalry, has not, as is borne out by many an evidence, lacked due from the scholar-world. This indifference towards Jainism becomes the more unmerited when we look at the other side of the shield; for Buddhism has practically disappeared from India, whereas the Jaina community not merely exists but wields a considerable influence over the political and economical destinies of this vast country.2 Although as Mrs stevenson has observed “It is no longer in any sense a court religion, nevertheless the influence that it wields in India today is enormous. Its great wealth and its position as the religion par excellence of moneylenders and bankers makes it, especially in native states, the power behind the throne; and if anyone doubts its influence, he need only count up the Number of edicts prohibiting the slaying of animals on Jaina sacred days rat have recently been issued by the rulers of the independent states the jainas form, in fact, a very large and, from their wealth and influence, nest important division of the population of India.
Hertel is certainly right when he says that “Amongst European scholars mere are comparatively few persons who realize the full importance of and the mighty influence which it was, and is, exercising on Indian civilization especially on Indian religion and morals, arts and sciences, literature and languages.” Neither is there any particular enthusiasm forthcoming in this direction from Indian scholars except for a few eminent men like Jaini, Jayaswal, Ghosal and others of their ilk. But the partiality of scholars towards Buddhism is not without sound reasons, for there is no denying that Buddhism had at one time been so extensive that it was not at all exaggerating to call it the religion of the Asiatic continent, But while it is true that Jainism was certainly restricted to a smaller area, there is evidence enough, as brought out by Mr NC. Mehta, that Jaina paintings found a place even on the walls of the cave-temples of Chinese Turkestan.
But this partiality towards Buddhism has unfortunately given rise to some fantastic and even untoward conclusions by, notably, some European scholars, who it must be conceded were at the time of their research virtually deprived of all benefit from any authentic comparative study of Jainism which is so imperative in view of the fact that the past history of these two sister-faiths runs well-nigh parallel. Fortunately for us many such fanciful conclusions have of recent years been corrected by scholars both in the East and the West. We shall notice below only a few of these fads. “Buddhism in proper,” says W.S. Lilly, “survives in the land of its birth in the form of Jainism. What is certain is that Jainism came into notice when Buddhism had disappeared from India.”3 Says Mr Wilson : “From all credible testimony, therefore, it is impossible to avoid the inference that the Jainas are a sect of comparatively recent institution, who first came into power and patronage about the eighth and ninth century: they probably existed before that date as a division of the Bauddhas, and owed their elevation to the suppression of that form of faith to which they contributed.”
Writers like Colebrooke have erred on the other extreme in believing Gautama Buddha to have been the pupil of Mahavira, on the ground that one of the latter’s pupils (Indrabhuti) bears the name of Gotamasvami or Gotama.5 Echoes Edward Thomas : “A schism took place after MahvIra. Indrabhuti was raised to the rank of a deified saint, under the synonymous designation of Buddha (for Jina and Buddha bear the same meaning according to both Buddhists and Jainas).” But the fact is that Jina means “the Conqueror and Buddha “the Knower.
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